The House and Senate this week sent a multiagency spending bill to President Trump’s desk that boosts the Department of Energy’s budget for nuclear warhead modernization, and reached a compromise on a separate spending bill that would accelerate development of the missiles that will carry those weapons.
Congress overwhelmingly approved the warhead funding as part of a multiagency spending bill, called a minibus, that included Department of Energy’s 2019 budget. The funding for the missiles is part of a separate minibus that includes proposed 2019 Department of Defense spending, and which lawmakers could vote on next week.
The Defense spending bill, H.R. 6157, would if signed nearly double development spending year-over-year for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). The next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile program would receive about $414 million in fiscal 2019: a raise first recommended by the House, and which is about 20 percent more than what the Trump administration requested.
Meanwhile, The Long-Range Standoff weapon (LRSO), a next-generation cruise missile that like GBSD is in a competitive development phase, would get about $665 million for fiscal year 2019: about 50 percent more than in 2018, and some eight percent more than requested for the budget year that starts Oct. 1.
The missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads provided by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
Trump had not released an official statement of administration policy about either the energy or defense minibus at deadline Friday for Defense Daily. The statements indicate whether the president will sign or veto a bill.
Before they produced a compromise 2019 spending bill, the Senate had recommended roughly $345 million for GBSD, in line with the White House’s request. The House recommended what lawmakers ultimately decided to provide: $415 million.
The compromise bill will not boost LRSO quite that much.
Over the summer, the Senate proposed $625 million for LRSO, while the House called for some $700 million: $35 million more than what Congress ultimately agreed on this week.
In the Department of Energy bill now on its way to the White House for a signature, lawmakers agreed to raise the 2019 budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s W80-4 warhead life-extension program by about 65 percent, to $655 million. The increase is intended to ensure the warhead’s development paces that of its LRSO carrier missile, and that both are ready to be deployed in the late 2020s, as the Pentagon plans.
The Pentagon intends to deploy both GBSD and LRSO in the late 2020s, after settling on final designs. The agency is now studying a pair of designs for each missile.
In the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act signed Aug. 13, congressional armed services committees approved nearly the same funding for LRSO and GBSD that appropriators ultimately agreed to provide. The authorization act directs the Department of Defense to use extra 2019 missile funding to speed up the current round of technology development.
It is up to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, in consultation with the secretary of the Air Force, to decide exactly how to expedite development of LRSO and GBSD, according to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.
Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Raytheon [RTN] are maturing designs for the new air-launched LRSO cruise missile under four-and-a-half-year contracts awarded in 2017 and worth about $900 million each. The weapon would replace Boeing [BA]-made Air-Launched Cruise Missiles. The B-21 Raider bomber Northrop Grumman [NOC] is developing could carry the LRSO, which would be tipped with W80 nuclear warheads provided by the Department of Energy.
Boeing and Northrop Grumman are working on competing designs for new intercontinental ballistic missile systems under GBSD. The three-year contracts are worth about $350 million and $330 million, respectively. The new missile will replace legacy Minuteman III missiles, which were made by Boeing and are mostly armed with W78 nuclear warheads.